It’s a little after 11 p.m., and you just got home from the library, a late meeting or somewhere or other. You likely ate dinner four or five hours ago. Your stomach growls, reminding you of the stretch of time that has elapsed. Perhaps you could snack on a bag of Goldfish or munch on an apple. Neither really fill you up or hit the spot, but they’ll do in the moment –– until you get in bed and find yourself already thinking about breakfast.
Maybe this isn’t you at all. It’s possibly just me rambling about my late-night eating habits (admittedly unbefitting someone who loves a good meal as much as I do). But it makes me wonder: What is it about that chunk of time between the sun setting and our bodies following suit that makes food a salient, nagging thought surfacing in our minds?
Though termed the “midnight snack,” late-night eating can roughly be considered eating anything after our last meal of the day and anything before our first. It can take various forms, be shared with others or alone and usually creeps up on us in the form of a some random craving. Akin to the midnight snack is the drunk food, a similarly spontaneous act of eating anything to satisfy us in the moment.
While most people carefully devise and prepare their daily meals (taken to the extreme by myself) — a habit inherently hinged upon concern for sustaining our health and well-being — there’s rarely, if ever, pause or a plan of action that motivates our decisive instinct to consume a late-night snack. It’s a moment of complete, uninhibited consumption that encapsulates the frequently evasive feeling of total freedom.
I say run with that freedom. How often throughout the day do we get to act with reckless abandon? How often do we act with such carelessness, such aimless gusto? Our limited energy is channeled towards so many other demands that drain us of our ability to scrutinize even the most trivial of matters that the brief moment in which we act upon our hunger without thinking twice resolves any other nagging thoughts in our minds. Though on a small scale, the indulgence of a satiating impromptu snack seems like a blip on our daily radar, it’s much more than that.
Our society doesn’t reward action without thought, and under most circumstances, it shouldn’t. But momentarily freeing ourselves from the chains of arbitrary, everyday choices can be a psychological deep breath –– a moment of peace.
Whatever prompts us to fill our stomachs and ease our minds, be it a dull, persistent hunger or an aching restlessness, we seek out comfort in food. And a late-night snack is the epitome of a quick, comforting treat that doesn’t require much effort or time to attain.
With that, I’ll leave you with three of my favorite late night snacks: the beautifully random concoctions of edible respites I find comfort in on any given night.
A bowl of cereal
I know, I know: “Seriously?” Yes, seriously. It’s cheap and easy. I throw in nuts, chocolate chips, coconut flakes, almond butter; replace dairy milk with almond milk or yogurt or cereal with granola. The options are endless, easy and satisfying.
Sounds fancy, right? Well, it’s not. It’s an airy, subtly tangy cheese (for under $3 at most grocery stores) slathered on crisp toasted bread and can be assembled in under five minutes. If you really want to throw caution to the wind, top it with sliced fruit, honey, seeds or whatever. It’s a blank slate for your most foolhardy culinary ambitions. The less thought you put into it the better and tastier.
DIY Trail Mix
AKA a crazy person’s bag of snacks. Combine pretzels, goldfish, peanuts, or anything in your snack cabinet with a crunch, and toss together. The pleasing variety and gratifying textures are a true testament to what can be done with an offhand spurt of creativity and bold indifference.